Today we visited the island of Faial in the central group of the Açores. Faial is known as “the blue island” because of the abundance of hydrangeas that make up the hedges all over the island in the summer. We boarded our coaches at the dock and drove north to the opposite end of the island, a region called Capelinhos. This was the site of a major eruption in 1957-1958. The eruption was first noticed by a whale lookout from his vigia (lookout hut), and he thought it was a group of whales disturbing the surface. The submarine volcano soon erupted with a giant ash cloud that covered the entire north side of the island. Initially, at least 2,500 families were displaced. Eventually, as many as 12,000 people immigrated to the US and Canada, out of a total population of about 25,000. To facilitate their immigration, Senators John F. Kennedy and John Pastore sponsored the Azorean Refugee Act of 1958. The act was signed by President Eisenhower and provided 1,500 additional visas for heads of households to immigrate.
The eruption added about two kilometers of land to the island and stranded the lighthouse well inland. We visited an excellent volcano museum where a number of animated video displays document the evolution of the archipelago’s islands. The museum is also home to a large collection of volcanic specimens from the various islands. We took a walk outside the museum near the lighthouse to see the large ash flows that now make up the entire northwest end of the island.
We drove south back to the center of the island and visited the central caldera, which was hidden under a cloud that filled the entire crater. We continued back to Horta, stopping at the Espalamaca miradouro (viewpoint) for a nice view of the town and National Geographic Endurance alongside at the dock.
In the afternoon, some of us went birding. Others made a visit to Horta to see the scrimshaw museum at Peter’s Café Sport and to view paintings made by yachtsmen and women with their ship’s name on the walls of the marina. Faial is a popular stopover site for those sailing across the North Atlantic. In addition to the scrimshaw museum, Peter’s acts as a post office where yachting folks can leave mail for colleagues coming along after they sail.
Altogether, it was a very fine day on the beautiful island of Faial.